The brightening comet atlas could soon raise your eyes and mood

Mar 28, 2020 1:45 AM ET

Atlas is similar to this comet that passed Earth in 2018. NASA

A new comet called Atlas named after the astronomical survey that discovered it on December 28 – quickly brightens when it approaches the sun and may soon be visible to the naked eye.

Something bright and shiny in the night sky sounds like a welcome distraction in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic right now. Some astronomers believe that the comet, formally called C / 2019 Y4, could deliver a big show that may become as bright as Venus.

The comet has brightened rapidly in recent weeks when it encounters a close encounter with the sun on May 31. Earlier this week astronomer Tony Phillips wrote that pictures of amateur astronomers indicate that the comet’s gas atmosphere could be half as wide as the sun.

“Comet ATLAS is certainly the largest at the moment green Thing in the solar system. ”

The early observations caused a lot of excitement that Atlas could be the most spectacular comet in years.

“It could be possible to see the object in broad daylight (May 31st) with a properly shielded telescope,” wrote Bob King for Sky and Telescope.

In the middle of the COVID-19 When it broke out in Italy, astronomer Alessandro Marchini, director of the Astronomical Observatory at the University of Siena, managed to compile this time-lapse video of the comet:

NASA’s ambassador for the Solar System, Eddie Irizarry, writes for EarthSky that the comet Atlas could be visible to the naked eye by May 1, but comets are notoriously unpredictable and brighten up in a moment to completely break up and dissolve the next . This happened to the much-touted Comet ISON in 2013that was to brighten the sky before it broke and hissed completely.

Irizarry also offers helpful charts for trying to spot the comet now and in the coming weeks.

I will definitely release updates as Atlas approaches. In the meantime, be sure to hold your chin up and keep an eye on the sky.

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